Have you ever thought, “I wish I would have started sooner,” on something? I know I’ve had this thought plenty of times. From workouts, to dieting, to even starting this blog. But, we can’t change the past.
As someone who lives with Depression and Anxiety while also seeing a therapist, I can admit that I’m often my own worst enemy. I wouldn’t say that I *live* inside of my own head; I used to *thrive* there. And not in a good way.
Yes to therapy
I tried therapy in 2013 and let’s just say, it could not have gone any worse. After a terrible break-up from being cheated on it exacerbated some of my darkest thoughts. Luckily, I had great insurance at the time and was able to seek professional help from a licensed professional.
I left that session feeling worse than I did going into it originally.
It took six years before I finally tried therapy again. I lucked out this time and found a therapist who fits me much better. I still speak with her by phone on occasion because I truly believe in therapy and speaking with licensed professionals.
Start therapy when things are going well. It’s much less of a mental lift and will give you the room to “date” therapists until you find a right match.
Even if you don’t think you need therapy for yourself, it’s a great way to speak with someone about those around you — and find better ways to interact with the world.
When I embarked on my journey to mental wellness in October 2019, I gobbled up plenty of self-help books, podcasts, and anything to dig me out of the pitch black hole I was in.
One of the books that I read during this period was You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Star Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. Y’all, I ate it up. It was exactly the book I needed when I was at my lowest low to help me pick myself up and see the pinprick of light in the tunnel.
Jen goes through various ways that you can find light within yourself. From affirmations to meditation. This message came at the same time I was deep in therapy. My therapist mentioned starting a mindfulness practice. And we even had a meditation & mindfulness lunch & learn at work.
The Universe was clearly trying to tell me something and I thought, why the hell not. What do I have to lose?
What even is “Mindfulness?”
In the modern day and Western culture, mindfulness has…a wrap. And let’s just say it’s not necessarily met with a ton of positivity. This is likely because it’s been capitalized on and mixed with toxic positivity. Oof.
In short, mindfulness is harnessing awareness and presence in the moment.
Considering the state of the world, our constant connection to everything with social media, and a 24 Hour News cycle that rarely seems to bring anything positive, how the hell is one supposed to be “mindful?”
Mindfulness is a practice
It takes time. The hardest part for me has been truly accepting that mindfulness takes practice. And a lot of it.
I’m not someone who does well with emotions. One of the many things I’ve had to work through (and still am) is accepting vulnerability is strength. I’m someone who tries to hide their hurt or sadness.
I also don’t generally do well with expressing myself well with body language when I’m experiencing a negative emotion. I can be saying all the right things but my body language gives away everything my words don’t.
Let’s just say – my emotions wear me. I’ve always wanted to fix all of this but I didn’t know how.
*Mindfulness has entered the chat*
A non-linear journey
I can say I started my mindfulness journey by simply picking up the book to figure my shit out. Or at least try to. Then, I found a therapist where I was able to start finding the words for my emotions and how I behaving (or not).
Next came journaling. I started to write in a journal at night as a way to better process what’s happening inside me and around me. It also gave me fodder for when I was seeing my therapist weekly. Yes, I was in therapy weekly for several months. I’m not ashamed of that.
After journaling came the affirmations. There were moments in the day when I’d have to stop myself and say an affirmation. It was here that I recognized I was starting to be aware of my emotions before they took control of me.
Last but not least, I started meditating.
I’m not going to lie, sitting and doing nothing is not easy for me. I started with two minute meditations because that was all I could handle. I’ve slowly worked my way up to 15 minutes at a time. But I can see the direct benefits of my various forms of mindfulness practice at play every single day.
Your Practice Is Yours Alone
When people hear the word mindfulness, they often think of meditation and sitting for long periods of time. However, that’s not the only way to practice being mindful. Here are a few ways you can start practicing mindfulness:
1. Write in a Journal
Journaling is a perfectly great way to take a moment for yourself. I like to spend a few minutes before bed writing what happened during the day, what I loved, what I didn’t like, and my own feelings.
There are many types of journals depending upon your goals. I personally prefer a blank page so i can freely write what comes to mind. This is the one thing I do almost daily.
One thing I’ve learned in my journaling is how to be better at forgiving myself. There are days that I’m too tired to write anything. Yah know, that’s okay. I just pick it up the next day.
2. Read, Write, and Say Affirmations
Affirmations. I’m sure just reading that has a few you rolling your eyes. And I don’t blame you. I too used to roll my eyes so far back into my head, you’d see all white. However, when I reached my lowest of lows, I figured why the hell not.
So, every day, I woke up and wrote down an affirmation. I’d say it a few times over. Before I knew it, I’d catch myself repeating them while I was walking or in the middle of doing something. I was telling myself an affirmation before I could recognize the emotion I was feeling.
It helped me start to figure out when I was experiencing an emotion that made me feel less than happy.
Oh yes, I use Pinterest to find new ones. I’ll save some in a collection on Instagram. Or if I hear someone say something I like, I’ll write it down.
Affirmations are a way to help shift your mind’s focus and the energy you’re exuding into the world. Give it a try for a week and see what happens.
3. All Hail Meditation
If you use Netflix, then you’ve probably seen the new Headspace Guide to Meditation series. I started my meditation practice in late 2019 with the Headspace app. As a Kaiser Member, I also have free access to the Calm App, but have never used it. Leave a comment if you have used either!
I won’t lie – meditation is hard. Especially when Stark thinks it play time. Sorry bubba.
Meditation is true practice. There are many ways to practice meditation and there’s no one size fits all for this.
If you’re a beginner, then I’d highly suggest trying a guided meditation through an app such as Headspace or Calm or through YouTube. Start with a short period of time such as two minutes and work your way up.
You can do it!
Benefits to a Mindfulness Practice
I asked my social network how many people follow a mindfulness practice and was glad to hear that there’s a large group of people who’ve found a method that works for them. If you’re thinking about starting a form of mindfulness, here are some of the benefits.
- Increased Emotional Intelligence – being in touch with our emotions helps us better relate to our surroundings and understand our own reactions.
- Reflection on Your Values – spending time reflecting will help you realize your values and where things are going well vs. what isn’t aligned with your goals.
- Help Your Heart – studies show that having a mindfulness practice can help fight against heart-related illnesses.
- Improve Cognition – we can’t fight the aging process but we can help ourselves to live a higher quality of life. Mindfulness practices are a way to keep our brains happy and healthy.
- Show Yourself Love – look, we spend a significant amount of time helping other people. A mindfulness practice is a way to take a few moments just for yourself. Who doesn’t love that?
With the nightmare that has been America for the last several years, the exacerbation of said problems in the last couple of weeks, mixed with my Dry January – I can definitely say that my mindfulness practice has helped me get through a lot.
Along with therapy, adding a mindfulness practice is something that I wish I would have incorporated in my life a lot sooner.
I’m grateful that it’s available to me at any moment I need and know that it’s all about the pratice. I’ll never be perfect but I can try to improve every single day.
Tools to Help Your Mindfulness Practice
So you’re ready to embark on your mindfulness journey. Here’s a few items I’ve used to help me on my journey: